From left, Matthew Weiner, "Mad Men" creator; David Carbonara, the show's composer; and Jennifer Harmon, membership representative of ASCAP. PHOTO: ARNOLD TURNER
During an intimate discussion with ASCAP membership representative Jennifer Harmon on day two (Thursday) of the the Hollywood Reporter/Billboard Film and TV Music Conference in Los Angeles, “Mad Men” creator Matthew Weiner and composer David Carbonara discussed what role music plays in the sexy, stylized and provocative AMC show. Set in early 1960s New York, the Golden Globe-winning television drama series “Mad Men” follows the lives of the ruthlessly competitive men and women of the Madison Avenue advertising industry. Quotes from their discussion:
Approach To Selecting Music
After discussing the origins of “Mad Men,” Weiner talked about the approach he took to choosing the music for AMC program. Having previously worked on HBO’s “Sopranos,” Weiner said he wanted to “emulate the ‘Sopranos’ in every way possible,” including the musical approach. “We debated whether to have a score [for ‘Mad Men’] and we always said, ‘I don’t want people to notice it,’ which is not always something a composer wants to hear. But [Carbonara] was totally onboard with the psychological state of the characters,” Weiner said. Carbonara added, “I didn’t want anything to be a distraction, I want to enhance the scenes.”
First Musical Cues
Weiner remembered one of the first musical cues he heard from “Mad Men,” which was a scene in the pilot with character Don Draper. “Don looks at his Purple Heart and David, you have this thing with the Chinese flute and bombs blowing up in the background. It’s a really complicated cue,” Weiner said. “It’s telling the audience, ‘You are going to be in this man’s head.’ He’s having a private moment and the music is going to let you experience that.”
Choosing Music For Scenes
The “Mad Men” creator and composer also noted that sometimes a piece of music written for one scene ends up being used for something completely different in a later episode. “That happens a lot,” Weiner said. For example, a cue called “Sally Falling in Love” was later used for a scene where “Don sticks his hand up Bobby’s dress. That song is ominous and horrifying. That songs about innocence and I’m like, ‘I thought it was dirty,’” Weiner said.
Music + The Narrative
Weiner went on to talk about the initial ideas for including music in “Mad Men.” “I don’t need you to solve the narrative problems for me, although [Carbonara] has bailed me out a couple times,” he said. “There have definitely been times where I never wanted to use music to save the show, but at this point nobody would’ve gotten this without the music. [Carbonara] wrote this cue for (the character) Betty in the second episode called ‘Who’s In There,’ and it was like, ‘Oh, my God, Betty has music, and it’s melancholy and it’s got these little bells and all the shit that I love.’”
--Reporting by Mitchell Peters
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